- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

On weekends, Defense Department computer analyst Jim Frank becomes Nymblewyke, a sword-fighting magician and flea circus ringmaster.

But first he begins the Maryland Renaissance Festival by firing a blast from a signal cannon that summons actors portraying King Henry VIII and his retainers to parade through the village gates.

He joins them, in 16th-century garb, to entertain patrons at the Renaissance-themed village near Annapolis that operates through October.

“For most people who work in computers, a lot of them have some other odd jobs,” said Mr. Frank, whose brown hair cascades below his shoulders.

After he fires the cannon from the spired wall of the village Revel Grove, Mr. Frank moves on to his first show, Nymblewyke’s Flea Circus, “the smallest show on earth.”

He opens a box set on a wooden stand to reveal a miniature carousel, tiny trapezes and a Lilliputian cannon.

As a crowd of children and their parents gathers around, he introduces his fleas, Ivan the strongman, Angelique the trapeze artist and Autumn the tightrope walker.

He insists the fleas pull the carousel and swing the trapezes, although the equipment moves with electronic precision.

He also insists Billy the flea gets shot out of a cannon, although no fleas are visible to the naked eye.

After the flea circus, Mr. Frank walks past a maypole and the O’Shucks Tavern to a stage where he demonstrates “Fight School” to several dozen onlookers.

“Lords and ladies, should I kill them one at a time or at the same time,” Mr. Frank asks the audience while pointing a sword at three other sword fighters on the stage.

He and fellow sword fighter Captain Julian Tiberius Romero, also known as Geoff Thompson, then jab and dodge with broad swords, rapiers and quarter staffs.

For the rest of the day, he demonstrates archeryand the fine art of bow-making, and hosts a magic show and a singing fest at a Renaissance-style pub.

“What do you need a long bow for?” Mr. Frank asks a young man who wanted to know if he could buy an archer’s bow.

“Just personal interest,” the young man says as he looks over bow-making tools in a “militia tent.”

When the Renaissance Festival ends in October, Mr. Frank does the same kind of period re-enactment shows at conventions and private events as part of his own weekend business.

It’s not that he needs the job.

“It’s mostly for the love of doing it,” he said.

His hobby sometimes raises eyebrows among his military co-workers at the Defense Department.

“Yeah, that’s different all right,” he recalls a Navy captain saying when he explained he keeps his hair long as part of his occasional fire-eating act.

“I always have to explain that,” said the 48-year-old computer scientist.

It’s the unexpected “funny things” he likes best about his weekend job.

One of them occurred when a juggler named Tuey, who Mr. Frank described as “a perfect juggler,” dropped a juggling club during a performance for the first time anyone at the Renaissance Festival could remember.

He turned toward the audience, upset, and said, “OK, who has the kryptonite?”

His greatest disappointments involve the accidents, such as falls that injure performers or the time a patron was slightly burned during a fire-eating act.

As the weekend ends, so do the fantasies Mr. Frank tries to portray, forcing him to return to his regular job.

“You can say I’m a rocket scientist,” he said. “I design missile systems.”

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